Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Sweetpea and I have been missing our warm-weather walks and activities.   We were just talking of popsicles in the shade last night.   What a lovely phrase, that, conjuring moments of childhood and memories in the making.   As we sat on the patio with our break-and-share treats, I told her about the trips to the little corner store for a fresh popsicle---none of us could have comprehended the actual having of a popsicle in our own freezers---that would have been like harboring a fairy or Batman actually at your house.   Usually two of us would troop along together, knowing the flavor would depend on who-had-the-nickel, for buyer got to choose.    One of us would grasp the whole thing firmly in our two hands, wrapper still on, and gently give that little wrist-snap which divided it into its two lovely intended halves.   There's a purpose to a popsicle, aside from the cold sweet refuge on a Summer day---they're MEANT to be shared.   They're incised in the exact spot which physics dictates as just right, and when they snap with that vague little crunch, and one half is handed to a friend, it's a charming Childhood Communion, with a satisfaction of anticipation and of companionship not available in a cupcake or plate of cookies.

One of us would usually "keep the paper," to catch errant drips, then we'd walk out and amble home, enjoying our treat, trying to capture every escaping drop as the hundred degrees of the day worked its will on the melting ice, running the colors down our elbows as we walked in that careful forward tilt to keep the stains from our clothes.

I told Sweetpea about REAL screen doors---the flappy kind, with the strong, faithful spring which smacked the door behind you (or you in the behind) as you went in and out, to a Mama-chorus of "Don't slam the door!" all up and down the block.   The cunning little flip-latch was a bit of a mystery as I described it, until I made a little flat circle, thumb and forefinger, and hooked the other index into it, pantomiming lock.

She certainly knows "picnic table," with the attached benches, for they're in every park, but they're so well maintained that she hasn't had the full experience---the brush-off-the-bird-poo, swing one leg over, then slide your shorts-clad skin gently along to get settled, without getting a splinter or flake of paint into your hide.   Those old tables were for EVERYTHING (I will not mention the year-round fish-cleaning which went on at the one between our house and the next, for it put me off seafood for life).   

We sat at those tables for picnics, for cookouts.    We read and embroidered and did little crafts-of-the-day, scrolling our names or initials on notebooks with the names of various boys over the years, never daring to incise them into the wood of the table like that daring and slightly-trashy Opal-in-the-eighth-grade did---she of the grubby rhinestone jewelry and black suede ankle-strap high-heels-for-school.   Our Mamas would have been mortified.   

We carried our little phonographs out there and spun the same Elvis record until somebody's parent (not necessarily our own) shouted "Play something ELSE!" through the window-screen.     We had tea parties and did homework and drew maps to great treasure, and those old boards heard young secrets and dreams, and felt the splash of many a teenage tear.

The heat of the day was often assuaged a bit when whichever  kid belonged to the backyard would go into the house and make KoolAid.   It was the real thing, as well, requiring a cup of sugar into the pitcher with the nose-filling doooost of the powder.    A big long stir, the crickkkk and clunnnkkkk of a twisted ice-tray, and grabbing of whatever glasses or cups were allowed out into the yard.    My favorites were these:
Holding those thin, flash-freezy aluminum cylinders in your hand, rolling them across your reddened, blazing forehead, holding them to a sunburnt cheek---the relief was blessedly soothing.    And even as the ice melted, the glasses seemed to stay miraculously cold, as the last sweet dregs were uptipped and swallowed. 

Sometimes we'd all troop down to the store with its own clackety door, and an even-more-adamant command not to slam---over the years that screen billowed and stretched, prey to a thousand knees and elbows, with the Nehi or Hires or Coca Cola handplate wearing to rust.   Outside of touristy Kountry Kitcheny places or old plank-floor originals, who of today could imagine a place of business with an actual screen door? 
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First, there was a trip over to the old Coke 'case" with the uplift of that heavy lid carrying the scent of galvanized metal, the deep rich tire-store smell of the black rubber gasket, and the somehow-salty scent of the ice-floating water within.   

We never grabbed a standing bottle by its neck---if it was sticking out of the water, it wasn't cold enough.   We'd fish deep into those Arctic depths, feeling the shock on our immersed hand, letting the pure-D bone-chill and then the ache of the fumbling set our hand on fire with the deadening.     

And despite the hundred-grubby-hands-a-day jooged down into that water, and the probable rarity of a good cleaning for the whole thing, we never bothered to dry the bottles or wipe off the moisture, and I don't think anyone ever caught anything from it.    A WISSSSSP past the opener, hoping that the almost-freeze of the drink didn't cause it to foam up and waste a drop in overflow, and then those first upended burning swallows.    Nothing can describe it; nothing can equal it.

And sometimes, just sometimes, if you'd been really good, or played your cards right, or the planets were aligned, you could hold your bottle up to the sun and actually watch the drink freeze---top to bottom, as "the air hit it."     And THAT was the prize---that primeval Slushie unattainable in any other fashion, coveted and enjoyed down to the last little crumb of ice coaxed and bottle-smacked into your head-flung-back mouth.

We've gotta find one of those stores, and perhaps as soon as she's a little older, Ganner will bring home some little glass-bottle cokes, we'll chill them super-cold, and I'll teach her the true ritual of Summer:   Peanuts in her Coke.

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